Hours before polling for the by-election to the Rajkot West Assembly constituency began on Wednesday morning, the Election Commission (EC) disqualified Congress MLA Indranil Rajyaguru as polling agent of his party candidate Jayanti Kalariya late on Tuesday night, after the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) filed a complaint in this regard. This comes a day after Rajkot city police had said that the MLA was under scanner for allegedly circulating pamphlets targeting BJP candidate Vijay Rupani.
The local election officers informed Kalariya late on Tuesday night that Rajyaguru, whom he had appointed as his election agent, stood disqualified under various laws and rules. “According to instructions given by the EC, no MP, MLA, mayor, president of district panchayat or a person with security cover can be appointed as an election agent. Kalariya had nominated Rajyaguru as his agent two days ago. By mistake, the returning officer (RO) authorised his nomination. But NCP filed a complaint over many issues, including the appointment of the MLA as election agent. After going through the instructions of EC, we found that the MLA cannot be appointed an election agent and the RO informed Kalariya last night that Rajyaguru stood disqualified as his election agent,” Rajkot district collector and district electoral officer Manisha Chandra told The Indian Express on Wednesday.
Kalariya said he replaced Rajyaguru with Jitu Bhatt as his agent after the EC request. “Rajyaguru was the election agent of Congress candidate during by-election to Tankara Assembly constituency in September and nobody had raised any objection then. After I nominated him my agent for the bypoll, the RO even issued the accreditation card to the MLA. But the EC requested us last night to replace Rajyaguru with somebody else and we agreed. However, this last-minute change will not have any impact on my poll fortunes,” said Kalariya.
The Congress candidate had made Rajyaguru his campaigning in-charge for the by-election, polling for which was held on Wednesday. Incidentally, Rajkot city police had said on Tuesday that Rajyaguru was on their radar in connection with alleged distribution of pamphlets attacking the character of BJP candidate Vijay Rupani.
NCP, which had broken its years-old alliance with the Congress last month, is also contesting the by-election independently and has fielded local businessman Bhavesh Lokhil. The bypoll was necessitated after BJP veteran Vaju Vala resigned to become the Governor of Karnataka. The counting of vote is scheduled to take place on Sunday.